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Arts Clayton to celebrate Arté Gras

Special photo: Arts Clayton officials estimate that 240 people came to socialize, and raise money for arts-education programs at last year’s “Arté Gras” fund-raiser at the Morrow-based National Archives at Atlanta. The officials said they are expecting the same number of people will attend this year’s event, on March 10.

Special photo: Arts Clayton officials estimate that 240 people came to socialize, and raise money for arts-education programs at last year’s “Arté Gras” fund-raiser at the Morrow-based National Archives at Atlanta. The officials said they are expecting the same number of people will attend this year’s event, on March 10.

Arts Clayton is going back to the future — in a way — with the theme for its annual “Arté Gras” black-tie arts education fund-raiser.

The local arts group decided seven years ago to host the annual event under the signature “Arté Gras,” because the party was scheduled to be held near the date of Mardi Gras. The name was a play on words, explains Arts Clayton Executive Director Linda Summerlin. The group began holding the annual event the next year.

“Our focus continues to be, how can we strengthen the arts-in-education initiative? So, every pot of money that we get — whether it's membership, or whatever — we look at how we can put a greater portion of that into having more instructors, and serving more of the children in our community.”Linda Summerlin, Arts Clayton executive director.

What to know about Arte Gras 2012

Host: Arts Clayton

Presenting Sponsors: Southern Crescent Hospital for Specialty Care, and the City of Forest Park

Purpose: Fundraiser for arts education programs

When: March 10, 7 p.m., to midnight

Where: National Archives at Atlanta, 5780 Jonesboro Road, in Morrow

Tickets: Individuals: $125, Eight-person table: $1,000

Contact: (770)473-5831

Each year, however, the feel of it has been focused around pieces of art — until last year, when the focus was the group’s 25th Anniversary. So, what’s in store this year, for the sixth annual “Arté Gras”? The group decided to go in a new direction, of sorts — by returning to the roots behind the event’s name, while moving away from focusing on a single piece of art.

This year’s event will have a “Carnival” theme.

“We decided we would do a spin-off of Mardi Gras, which is [called] ‘Carnival’ in Central American countries,” Summerlin said. “It’s a big colorful party, and that’s what ‘Arté Gras’ has always been — a party!”

“Arté Gras” will be held this year, on March 10, from 7 p.m., to midnight, at the National Archives at Atlanta, located at 5780 Jonesboro Road, in Morrow. It is being presented by Southern Crescent Hospital for Specialty Care, and the City of Forest Park. Tickets are $125 for individuals, and $1,000 for an eight-person table.

There will also be a raffle, with prizes expected to range from a replica Tuskegee Airmen jacket, to several pieces of artwork, to “exquisite” jewelry, to vacation getaways.

The annual party is one of two major, annual fund-raisers Arts Clayton uses to fund its children’s educational initiatives. The other major fund-raiser is the annual, summer golf tournament. The children’s initiatives supported by these events include the group’s Arts Van, Mobile Learning Lab, summer camp, and Arts in Schools afterschool programs, Summerlin said. She added that the money also pays for occasional classes offered to children at the Arts Clayton Gallery, in Jonesboro.

“Arts Clayton was founded with arts education in mind,” the group’s executive director said. Summerlin, who is typically tight-lipped about how much money Arts Clayton raises, declined to specify the amount of money generated through the first five “Arté Gras” events.

She said, however, the group has been able to expand the number of artists working with local children — through the after-school program — from two artists, to approximately six artists, because of “Arté Gras.” She also said funding generated by the event has allowed Arts Clayton to fine tune its children’s programs to best meet the arts-education needs of local youngsters.

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Special photo: The Infinity Show Band performed at last year’s Arts Clayton “Arté Gras” event. Officials from the local arts group said the band is expected to perform at this year’s event, as well.

The after-school program’s expansion into 16 Clayton County schools is one result of that fine-tuned focus, she explained. She added that the goal is to continue building that program, by expanding it into more schools in the future. She said the group also wants to further expand the children’s programs offered at the gallery.

“Our focus continues to be how can we strengthen the arts-in-education initiative?” Summerlin said. “So, every pot of money that we get — whether its membership, or whatever — we look at how we can put a greater portion of that into having more instructors, and serving more of the children in our community.”

Arts Clayton’s executive director said the group has already sold approximately 90 percent of its tickets for this year’s event, but she emphasized it is not too late to get a ticket. Anyone who would like to purchase a ticket for this year’s “Arté Gras,” should call Summerlin directly, at (770) 473-5831.